Living with schizophrenia is like driving across the country. There are meandering fields and prairies of months when you’re well that almost make you forget you have an illness. Then you come into the mountains and the roads get curvy and steep and the weather gets unpredictable. One minute you could be fine, then the next it’s snowing and you can’t see 10 feet in front of you.
I’ve coined a term for driving through the mountains of mental illness. I call these periods “blips.” It’s important to be able to recognize these blips before you find yourself in the hospital again. They may only last a few days, or it could be something more serious. At that point it’s probably a good idea to get your meds looked at and see if there’s anything you can change.
Right now, in my illness, I’m on the flatland and the ride is smooth. I’m thankful for that because I just got down out of a particularly rough ride through the mountains.
Blips come in all shapes and forms, from depression to paranoia to hallucinations to delusional thinking. Riding them out is the same as riding out more concrete problems such as the death of a loved one or a breakup.
The most important thing to remember is that it takes time to recover.
In my eight years living with schizophrenia I’ve learned a few tricks for riding out the blips. Maybe these will help others who are having a rough time.
First and foremost, stress is a killer. It’s important to limit the amount of stress if you see the road getting steeper and the weather coming on. Take a break from working so hard if you can and take some time to center yourself. Exercise is good. Get out on a walk and see some nature. Do some yoga. Lying on your couch is fine, too, if it helps you relax. Hot showers are good; homemade meals are good. Anything you can do to limit stress is potentially great in order to get a better hold on things.
Another key to riding out the hills is to get plenty of sleep. Set a schedule if you have to but be sure to get at least eight hours a night. Go to bed when you’re tired and don’t drink a lot of water or alcohol before you go to bed. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself in order to aid recovery.
Another big one is keeping the realization in mind that this little blip, this bump in the road will pass eventually. As with any other problem in life, it will get better with time. Time has a way of numbing things. It takes the sting out of things to the point where they are just momentary lapses of wellness and nothing else. They will come and they will go. If you’re having a hard time, just know that eventually you’ll feel better.
Accepting your symptoms is huge, too. If it’s paranoia or delusions or depression or hallucinations or anything else, becoming comfortable with what’s happening to you gives you a special kind of resilience. Just knowing that you don’t have to fight these things, that they will come and they will go, is a wellspring of peace in your chest. Recognizing that they’re just symptoms and nothing more lets you see them objectively and makes riding them out that much easier.
It’s been a long road for me in recovery and I have to remind myself of the above all the time. They’re pretty good as far as coping strategies go. They seem to help me. Maybe they can help you too.